Economy

Ndume to FG: ‘Halt VAT increase, masses will be worst hit’

… Backs plan to reintroduce toll gates

The former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, has advised the Federal Government to jettison its plan to increase Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5% to 7.2%.

He made the call while fielding questions from State House Correspondents after a closed-door meeting on Thursday with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, last month approved a 2.2 percent increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) to move it from five to 7.2 percent.

According to Ndume, the masses will be the worst hit should the government go-ahead to increase VAT.

He, however, threw his weight behind plans to increase property and communication taxes in the country.

Ndume is the sponsor of the Bill for an Act to establish the Communication Service Tax, which he formally introduced on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday and has passed the first reading.

According to the former majority leader, “I feel that increase in VAT is going to have a spiral effect; and it is going to affect the poor more.

“It is true the government is not expanding the revenue base or the tax.., that is why I am thinking that anybody that is using telephone here would want to just talk and pay for it of course but right now, none of you will say this is what I am paying for telephone; if it tells you one minute remaining, you start looking for any recharge card.

“But if you are tasked with that, you won’t say you want to talk again because you are tasked.

“The effect will be that every commodity even transportation from one point to another will increase and who is going to pay or who is going to feel it more; it is the poor; so that is why I am saying that we should introduce Communications Service Tax and people will pay for it sometimes even not knowing.”

The Borno lambert said through the property and communications tax, government will be able to generate more revenue.

“Do you know the money the service providers are making out of communications.

“So, that is why I sponsored that Bill at the last senate but it didn’t… because of time and of course service providers opposed that.”

On property tax bill, he said “Let me add one thing, yes we have a government; the tax should be paid by those who can; who should or can afford that tax.

“Like in Abuja now, you see so much property; if you value them, property tax is something not paid; I am not paying too simply because nobody is paying; nobody asked me to pay.

“In Nigeria, for example, the resources are in the hands of few people; why don’t you tax these few people instead of going to tax the poor man that is trying to survive.

“So, this is my position and I think this Communications Service Tax is part of it; ask those that can afford a telephone, 60 million of them; why do tax 200 million people? Tax the 60 people that can afford it and you get what you want.”

Speaking further on Property Tax Bill, he said “I am working on a property tax bill not only that, I am working on another bill…maybe it will not see the light of the day; people are having what they can’t explain; they should be asked.

“The burden of proof should be on that person; if I have a mansion and my income as a senator does not commensurate with that if you want to fight corruption, you put the burden on me to prove where I got that money.

“In Britain nowadays, it is called Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO), I am working on that too; that if you own a car, you explain how you got it; because of that if you don’t know where to go with what you steal that doesn’t belong to you, you don’t even start,” he said.

Ndume also spoke on the proposed reintroduction of toll gates on Nigerian highways.

He said “You see, the state of our infrastructure is of concern; there is virtually collapse in our infrastructure; if the purpose for which the toll gates will be placed will serve the objective of keeping the roads not only motorable but effective and safe.

“Like the Abuja-Kaduna road for example, where there is a toll gate, you will be able to place security there and if you place these people there, you have to pay them.

“I am sure every Nigerian travelling, for example, say from Lagos to Ibadan, if you say he is going to pay N100 or N12 to 50 at each point in four places to assure that number one, the road is good; number two, he will be safe; he can drive without expecting anybody to come and close the road and kidnap or rob anybody, it makes sense to me but for the toll gate to be placed just for the purpose of it, I don’t think that is what the government wants to do.

“Besides, I heard the minister say that they are bringing private partnership into it; and that is also good,” he said.

The lawmaker explained that the meeting between him and the vice president was private and personal.

He said he used the opportunity yo brief the Vice President on the humanitarian crisis in his state, Borno State.

He said “I am here to see the vice president and for some of you that have been here for a while, you know that I come from time to time; I have a relationship, very personal with the vice president; just like the president too.

“More especially, I come to brief him from time to time on the humanitarian crisis that we are facing because the vice president is personally passionate about it. You know what he did for us; he has an orphanage that is running very effectively in my area; accommodating over 2000 orphans.

“So, I normally come to discuss with him; he is always very curious about what is going on; so I came to adequately brief him; and of course, you know, in the course of that kind of discussion, you discuss other things which are private and personal,” he added

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